How to Avoid These 3 Common Mistakes When Writing Your Listicle’s Subheadings

August 24, 2020

You likely come across a listicle article at least once each day. They’re on the internet, in newspapers, books, and magazines.

Actually, you are reading one right now. The following article will discuss some of the common pitfalls of listicle writing. And how copywriters avoid them.

What Makes a Listicle Great?

Listicles are sub-headings followed by text. They make it easier for people to digest information. Research shows that more than 50% of readers share an article if the headline is captivating.

To make the best of this, you have to craft a captivating headline for your readers. Your listicle’s title is your article’s first selling point.

However, as a writer, you need to be careful when writing a listicle. The style has been criticized for decreasing people’s ability to focus. It is also blamed for the loss of available writing on serious and complicated issues.

Clearly, it is important you identify your target audience and the type of listicle you are writing.

Types of Listicles

  1. Educational Listicles – These are mostly problem-solving articles. For example, “5 Tips to Get Your Workout Routine Back on Track.”
  2. How-To Listicles – Helpful articles that break down instructions into simple steps for the reader. For example, “How to Become a Freelance Writer in 2020.”
  3. Rank Listicles–  A rank article targets a very specific group of people. For example, a music rank listicle could have a headline such as “Top Ten Musicians in 2020.
  4. Advice Listicles – Readers get a first-hand personal experience and research opinions. “Avoid Conflict at Work by Following These Simple Steps.
  5. Expert Opinion Listicle – Expert opinions listicles include information from industry experts. A writer can select as many as three people to speak on the same topic and write about their different views.

This article will explain common issues with listicle headings and subheadings and how to avoid them.

3 Things to Avoid When Writing Listicles

1. Avoid Confusing Headlines

Be Specific

Your reader expects to discover what your listicle is about after a quick glance at the headline. If you aren’t specific enough, you risk having your reader scroll by, uninterested.

In most cases, if the headline isn’t captivating to the reader, they will find something else to read.

However, a listicle with an interesting headline is more likely to be shared.

Your audience is able to identify the type of content they expect just by reading a headline.

Remember that Google limits its Search Engine Results Page(SERP) to 50-60 characters.

However, do not let length be your only guide to writing a headline.

Don’t Break out the Thesaurus

Stick to using plain English and avoid the use of complex words. If you choose a shorter and lighter headline, your reader is more likely to read your whole article.

Besides, shorter headlines are more friendly and as they are easily understood. Using complex words can be both confusing and frustrating to the reader.

Remember the average reading level on the internet is Grade 8.

2. Avoid Shortcut Listicles

Don’t Use Misleading Data

Go the extra mile and complete research for the article you are writing.

Don’t be that writer who only relies on one source of information. Be thorough in your research and include as much numerical data and sources as possible.

This will give your work more credibility and builds trust with your readers.

Start by identifying a topic that is interesting to your readers, and one that you will enjoy writing. Choose topics that are not too complex and resonate with current affairs.

As a writer, this will motivate you to read more on the topic and provide useful content for your readers.

Choose More Than One Headline for Your Article

As a good writer, begin with more than 3 headlines for your article before you even start writing. Write down a few ideas and drop them as you progress to get the best fit for your article.

You also have the option of asking for opinions from other writers. Their feedback can help you decide which headline to pick.

Posing a question, getting personal, and promising value are all proven techniques to up your headline game.

Repurpose Your Listicle into an Infographic

Listicles and infographics dominate digital content because they provide straightforward information. According to LSEO, readers interact better with infographics. This is because they give an in-depth explanation with only the use of visuals.

If your listicle is straightforward, considering repurposing it and creating an infographic.

Your infographic is perfect for sharing on social media or using it as a thumbnail for your article.

Online programs such as allow you to create your own infographic. You won’t need the help of a graphic designer.

After easelly infographic


Be Consistent With Your Writing

Choose one theme for each article which explains a single idea. According to Copy Press, listicles that don’t flow up will cause readers to lose interest.

This is especially true if you are ranking a collection of things in your listicle. Your reader wants an accurate ranking. This requires hard work, think through your ranking system.

Even if all items are top picks you need to find out what your reader will find most appealing.

Write for the Reader

Make your article all about the reader. Avoid words such as “I” or “we” in your headlines. At this point, you have not yet interacted with the reader so they still don’t care about your article.

Instead, think of something that affects them. For example, “5 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Sugar at Night”. Such a headline will make the reader want to know more, as it promises to benefit them.

3. Never Use Clickbait to Attract Readers

Don’t Write About Something You Can’t Deliver

Execute what you promised in the headline while still maintaining brevity. Make sure your headline is backed with strong, interesting, informative, or engaging material.

If you pick headlines such as, “Eating Habits That Will Change Your Life in Less Than a Week” you won’t get a lot of traffic.

Readers easily spot deceptive headlines and skip the article altogether. Clickbait isn’t just annoying, it can be harmful to your brand. Stick to providing your readers with useful content.

Helpful articles will out-perform a flashy and deceptive headline in the long run.

Don't Include Photos that Have Nothing to Do With the Headline

Before your readers see the headline, they first interact with the graphics.

What happens when you come across an article that has irrelevant pictures?

Just like clickbait, misleading your readers will only make them turn away. This is similar to using a headline such as “10 ways to…” then you end up listing 7.

Keep it simple, use relevant photos for your listicles.

Keep it Serious, Sometimes

Using puns and punchy lines is allowed selectively when writing listicles. For example, when writing B2B content, it might not be a good idea to bring in humor as your readers might not take you seriously.

However, on some occasions such as light-hearted stories, or funny pictures you can use humor but be careful not to overdo it.

Find out What Listicles Can Do for Your Organization

Listicles are made effective by their way of giving a lot of information in an easy to digest format.

They can be highly effective for generating brand recognition and causing content to go viral.

Start using listicles to your advantage today. Discover how listicle content can start growing your business today.

Katrina McKinnon


I'm Katrina McKinnon, founder of CopySmiths and Small Revolution. In my 20 years of experience, I have helped online businesses create high-performing content specifically on an eCommerce store's blog. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.